Toothache and period pain: the non-emergencies putting unnecessary strain on A&E

Hull Royal Infirmary’s A&E department is being put under strain this festive season by scores of patients attending with minor ailments.

Around 420 patients have attended the department each day over the last three days, and around 200 of those have been through the ‘Minors’ department; numbers such as this are normally seen on a busy Monday rather than over a weekend.

Chief Operating Officer, Teresa Cope, says around two thirds to three quarters of those walking into the ‘Minors’ area – in some cases up to 150 people per day – could and should have sought advice or treatment elsewhere:

“The last few days in our Emergency Department have been incredibly busy. It appears that with Christmas festivities out of the way, many people are starting to seek treatment for minor health problems or niggles such as period pain, toothache and back pain, but A&E is not the place to do this.

“It’s no secret that our hospitals come under pressure over the winter and the patients we admit do tend to be more poorly, often linked to respiratory conditions or flu which is now, once again, doing the rounds.

“With some really sick patients on our hands, both in the ‘Majors’ area of our Emergency Department and throughout our hospital wards, tending to patients with minor ailments which could have been treated just as easily through a pharmacy or walk-in centre takes valuable time and resources away from the seriously ill.

“We have to prioritise the genuine emergencies and our seriously sick patients so, quite simply, those who are coming to A&E because it might be convenient or because they can’t get a doctor’s appointment straight away will still be in for a long wait.”

Teresa also says that while the wards at Hull Royal Infirmary are now free from Norovirus, the hospital is starting to see more cases of flu. Both flu and the winter vomiting bug, Norovirus, can be spread easily in a hospital environment, meaning anyone who attends A&E with diarrhoea, vomiting or flu-like symptoms, could be putting vulnerable patients at risk:

“We’ve seen a number of people walking into A&E in recent days with flu and D&V, and this poses all sorts of risks to the more vulnerable patients in our care.

“These two viruses can spread easily in confined spaces where there are lots of people, and many of the patients in hospital are already very poorly or have weakened immune systems, so getting one of these on top of existing health problems could have very serious implications.”

Teresa and her A&E colleagues are now repeating the call for patients to consider alternative sources of advice and treatment to ensure specialist clinicians’ time can be spent looking after those with life-threatening conditions and in need of urgent treatment.

“Walk-in services are available throughout the New Year period in both Hull and the East Riding, so we’d urge people to use the services that are out there where it’s appropriate to do so, and to help us keep the Emergency Department free for those who really need it.”

For full details of where you can get help and when throughout Hull and the East Riding, simply call NHS 111 or visit www.hullccg.nhs.uk/staywell/